You can’t be a Mets fan in the present era without dreaming big and accepting small. Take the ninth inning of Saturday night’s game, for example, one of seven innings in which the Mets didn’t score, one of six innings in which the Mets left at least one runner on base. With one out and his team down two runs, Kirk Nieuwenhuis was broken out of cold storage to deliver a pinch-hit double. Due up soon were the two Mets most deserving of a storybook finish to their night.
Wouldn’t it be great, a consensus of thought developed in Section 106, if Curtis Granderson could get on here and then Daniel Murphy would hit the home run to win it? Murph’s almost certainly going to be named the sole Met All-Star, and lifting us to victory would provide the perfect flourish to his impending stellar status.
Granderson popped out, however, so Murphy could no more than tie it. Just getting on base would be plenty, though, because the consensus of thought moved on to David Wright, returned from his shoulder-healing rest period (it was apparently aching from carrying the franchise for half-a-decade). Wright, the Captain, would remind us why he’s our first top-shelf Met For Life, dramatically taking Joakim Soria deep and topping off a comeback that had been struggled toward for hours on end.
Except Soria struck out Murphy and that ended the game, another Mets loss, 5-3. We dreamed big but we accepted small. We accepted the unfortunate result. We accepted that the best we could have realistically hoped for was two runs scratched out in twenty minutes torpor, and even that was pushing the realm of reality. We accepted that a team that wallows double-digits beneath the halfway-decent mark doesn’t conjure rallies on a wish, for if it was that easy for them to compile an adequate amount of runs, why would they always be behind the way they are?
We accepted that they’re the Mets. And once we accepted that, we who attended Citi Field Saturday night could enjoy what we had experienced.
There were fleeting pleasures to be had if you insisted on mining your enjoyment from the New York Mets and their Sisyphean climb against the Texas Rangers. Travis d’Arnaud walloped rather than wallowed. Juan Lagares unleashed a throw so on the money that you know his manager immediately fantasized about sitting him in deference to Pete Gray. Murph made a nice play from the seat of his pants. Wright, not defensively rusty at all despite more than a week spent on the seat of his pants, made another one.
None of it appreciably helped whittle a Texas lead that gushed up from the earth in the top of the first, but Met D kept it close enough so we could indulge in yet another tease party, the kind that allows us to weave scenarios in which walkoff home runs are struck by whichever Met we fancy. Granted, once these kinds of games go final, the only one still delusional enough to decide that something tangible was accomplished is Terry Collins, who tends to distribute gold stars to his team for staying “in it” and almost winning.
The Mets have been teasing us with close calls since March 31. If there was any value in losing by one or two as opposed to a dozen, you’d figure it would be embedded in all the practice they were getting at nearing victory. A team that is “in it” the way Terry regularly describes the Mets’ participation in non-wins might get the hang of the object of the game. But near victory is all they do.
Still, there are those fleeting pleasures. Or, in the case of Bartolo Colon set loose on the basepaths, plodding pleasures.
If there’s one thing that can galvanize a stadium, it is Bartolo Colon on offense. You don’t need Kevin James to goad you to “put down the Shake Shack” when Colon does something with the bat and then, lord help us, his feet. In the third inning, when the Mets were already trailing 5-0, Bartolo somehow found himself on first. Upon Granderson doubling, he efficiently transported himself to third without police escort. Things got dicey from there, however. Murphy singled to left. It wasn’t what you’d refer to as a clean single. Shin-Soo Choo dove and couldn’t come up with it, but once it fell in, you’d expect the lead runner to be poised to dash home. Lead runner Colon, though, stayed at third.
The large video screen in center caught Murphy, anchored on first behind both Granderson and Colon, in what appeared to be philosophical contemplation. “I have singled with a teammate in what is commonly known as scoring position,” Daniel had to be silently reasoning. “I believe I have earned a run batted in through this action. Yet my teammate remains precisely where he stood before I swung and I attained no RBI. Perhaps baseball is not my true calling.”
Wright didn’t bring Colon home, but Bobby Abreu did, presumably setting some sort of boroughwide record for oldest player driving in an even older player (though Julio Franco and Moises Alou were Queens teammates in their respective career twilights, so maybe not). The Mets cut it to 5-2 once Bartolo crossed the plate and the plate didn’t buckle, and they were ideally situated to do even more damage with the bases still loaded and only one out.
They damaged our psyches, mostly, as Lucas Duda struck out and Lagares grounded out, and there went our prime opportunity to catch up, but never mind all that. We witnessed the placing of a “1” under the “R” column next to “Colon P” in the box score and we were all intensely engaged in how such a notation came to be. Every step of Colon’s journey from home to home — including his conversion of third base into an Extended Stay America suite — was heartily commented upon in the right field stands and, I would guess, anywhere else Mets fans observed and assumed they could do better. From grumblings of “he’s useless!” when he couldn’t lay down a bunt; to astonishment that “ohmigod, he’s on base!” when Adrian Beltre threw poorly; to disbelieving confirmations that “he made it to third on the double!”; to sincere wonderings of “has that ever happened before?” when he couldn’t forge a path to the plate on Murphy’s hit; to a sense of shared reward when Abreu finally drove him home, you couldn’t stop watching Bartolo Colon.
The Mets losing is something you can see most days. Bartolo Colon scoring in a home uniform, let alone the the Eastern Time Zone, is something nobody had ever seen before Saturday night. Yet I got to see it.
So I enjoyed that. I enjoyed the warm night air. I enjoyed the absence of humidity. I enjoyed that Stephanie and I stumbled across Citi Field postcards in the team store (we both sort of collect such items). I enjoyed meeting up with two Washington, DC-area readers — Larry from Maryland and James from Virginia — each making maiden voyages to this particular ballpark on a postcard-perfect evening. I enjoyed the New York baseball debut of Justin Shea Arnold, a fine exemplar of the Youth of America and a young man whose middle name is no accident of birth. I enjoyed the giveaway floppy hat, if not quite as much as Branden and Alexa implied I would. I enjoyed, after being rained out of a previous appointment, at last greeting the Rangers, favorite American League team of my preadolescence. I enjoyed Sharon and Kevin Chapman sitting to my left. I enjoyed Mark Simon briefly occupying an unclaimed seat behind me. I enjoyed the pregame Blue Smoke brisket. And I always enjoy going to a game with my wife.
After the loss was filed away, I decided that if the Mets had to lose — and apparently they had to — I enjoyed that their loss was registered in such a low-stakes affair. This kind of defeat in the context of a heated Wild Card lunge would have gnawed on my last nerve. Sadly, the Mets aren’t lunging for anything these days except the disabled list so they can add Jon Niese’s name to it, so what the hell? Their current winning percentage is .437, meaning that if you’re the type of person who sees the glass as 43.7% full rather than 56.3% empty, having a generally wonderful time at a basically terrible ballgame offers a 99.9% probability of satisfaction.
I’m a Mets fan. I dream big. I accept small. For now I do, anyway.